Patricia Gore was 17, sitting in shorthand class at Nevada Union High School, when then-Nevada County Administrator Jerry Sykes came in, scouting.
“He said, ‘We really need stenographers at Nevada County — come by when you’re done with class,’” recalls Gore, who took him up on the offer. “I started in the County Counsel’s office.”
Fast forward 37 years. Gore, 54, currently the longest-serving Nevada County employee, retires June 12 from her post as assistant director of the Sierra Nevada Regional Department of Child Support Services. Her last day at work is May 30.
From stenographer, she moved steadily up the ranks to help manage a $4.3 million department with 23 employees and 3,600 cases of families who need help negotiating their child support arrangements or making do as single parents.
“It’s crazy how that time has flown,” said Gore, who has lived in Nevada City since age 13. “I don’t feel that old.”
In fact, Gore, who plans to spend more time with husband Tom riding trails on their two horses, fishing, hiking and generally enjoying an active lifestyle, seems to have weathered her 37 years in public service with exuberance and in good health.
“She’s loyal, passionate about the program and focused in her work,” said Kathy Hrepich, California State Director of Child Support Services, who was Gore’s boss in Nevada County from 1999 to 2009. “She was a great assistant — it will be a great loss.”
Gore, who is not related to former Presidential candidate Al Gore, said she feels her strongest contribution has been “being a positive role model and leading the department through many conversions and transitions.”
When Gore first started, there were no computers and no electronic files, and people were allowed to smoke cigarettes at their desks.
“That’s how I got a window office, because I don’t smoke,” she said.
Another major change was in 1999, when the state ordered child support services be moved out from the county district attorney’s office and instead under the social services umbrella.
“That was a big change,” Gore said. “We used to be that law enforcement model — the deadbeat dad and all that.”
The Sierra-Nevada County department is now under Health and Human Services.
“Now our focus is on helping people negotiate through barriers to paying child support,” Gore said.
For example, rather than imposing fines and jail time on a parent who has a drug addiction or who is jobless, the department can defer the child support payments until the parent has time to get treatment or to visit “One Stop,” a job placement nonprofit organization.
“We’re really trying to work with people,” she said.
Tex Ritter, Gore’s current boss and director of the Sierra Nevada Regional Department of Child Support Services, said the department has been successful in collecting $7.8 million in child support.
“(Gore) manages well and has earned the respect of everyone she has worked with,” Ritter said. “She has guided careers for those who worked with her, and created new challenges for staff — allowing them to grow and also promote their own careers.”
According to Gore, the department is one of the top 10 in the state in terms of performance.
She said she is most excited about — and even thought about delaying her retirement for — the trend to have more collaboration among county departments.
“While much has changed, obstacles and opportunities are ever-present and keep our work challenging,” she said. “And the years just fly by.”
To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.
“She’s loyal, passionate about the program and focused in her work. She was a great assistant — it will be a great loss.”
California State Director of Child Support Services